Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Over the last couple of weeks I have done something I swore I would never, ever do again. Banned from rowing, I have crossed over to the dark side and been… gulp… running.

Oh. My. Goodness. I thought rowing was hard. I’ve always maintained that I’m not a runner and nothing I’ve encountered over the last month has dissuaded me from this idea. Still, needs must and it’s either running or lying on the sofa eating multi-packs of fun-sized Milky Ways. Even I can see the sense in forcing myself to pound the pavements.

But here’s the thing. Which is actually better for you? Rowing or running?

Sadly I don't look like this when I run

On a pure, calorie-burning front, running seems to be winning at the moment. According to the indoor machines (and I know these aren’t fully accurate), running burns off wondrously high numbers of calories – way more than my pathetic efforts on the erg ever did – and certainly I’ve managed to munch my way through obscene quantities of pasta, mince pies and cupcakes over the last little while without covering myself in a layer of lard.

I’m discovering some new muscles, too, especially since Son on the Run gave me a running tutorial and pointed out all of my faults. With my new, improved technique, my calves are screaming so much that I can barely walk.

Equally thrillingly, without the thrice-weekly body-thrashing that is my normal rowing routine, I now have silky-smooth skin. No blisters. No callouses. No track bites. And I’m pleased to report that I’m currently sporting a lovely set of unchipped, perfectly painted nails (in Chanel’s Rouge Noir, for those who care).

On the downside, unlike rowing, running does pretty much nothing for your upper body (which is good for healing a shoulder injury, but horrendous for the emerging bingo wings). It’s also worryingly high impact and, I suspect, will do my joints no favours in the long run. I also read somewhere – and this is fairly horrifying – that running eventually makes your face slide down towards your toes (along with everything else). I’m sure nothing like that ever happens in rowing.

So come on, let me know what you think. Rowing vs. running. Discuss.


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Since last week’s blogroll post, lots of you have been clicking away on their sites, so time to roll out another one.

First on this list is the fabulously named Rowing Is Awesome – well, how could I ignore a blog with a title like that? It’s full of rowing awesomeness, with some funny stuff, some inspiring stuff (the running clip made me go a bit teary) and some bits of general rowing interest. Go read: it’s awesome.

Now anyone who overlooks the importance of the cox is a fool, so my next blog up for  inspection is Adventure (In Coxing) Is Out There! by American cox, Alex Olijnyk. It’s always good to see life from the perspective of the 9th seat, so here it is. Coxes can be a bit scary sometimes, and I suspect Alex is no exception, but who could really be intimidated by someone who has a “puppy of the day” slot on their blog. Even if you’re not interested in coxing, check this one out if you like cute dogs.

Finally, as some of you (especially those of you who trained all summer for the Boston Marathon) sound like their week has a bit stressy, I’m going to suggest a visit to Everything Stress. Lots of great advice for anyone sitting with their shoulders hunched up at their computer (like me… hmmm…) If the tough guy rowers amongst you can refrain from laughing out loud at references to 30 minutes of exercise a day (if only), it’s full of useful thoughts and suggestions.

So there we have it. Your weekend reading lined up. Enjoy – but not so much that you never come back to GirlontheRiver.


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There are certain things in life that are bound to provoke arguments with your kids. Teaching them to drive is, I’m guessing, right up there.  Choosing a playlist for pretty much any occasion. Offering thoughts on what they’re wearing.

But what about rowing? Well, we put this to the test at our latest regatta, with a Mums and Sons’ mixed 8. The sons ranged between 15 and 19. The mums ranged between ** and ** (cough… no need to be specific). The combined points (everyone else’s, that is; I was the only novice) took us into IM2. We put the boys in the stern and decided we’d just sit the boat and let them do all the work (just kidding).

As with most scratch mixed 8s, we only managed one outing before the big day, and the bickering was … what you might expect.

“You need to assert yourself more”, No. 2 shouted to the cox.

“Mu-um, stop bossing everyone around”, moaned No. 5 at No. 3.

Thankfully my boy and I were too far apart (with me at bow and him at 7) to communicate.

Despite the squabbling, we soon noticed that having our well-coached boys in the boat immediately raised the bar. The mums warmed up first, neatly but without much panache, but when our offspring took over we realised what it really ought to look and feel like. Suddenly we started rowing better. Crisper at the catch; faster at the finish; slower up the slide.

And the outcome on the day? Well, we lost, but only by 1/4 length, and it was one of the best races I’ve had. Our opposition looked gratifyingly exhausted at the end. And the arguing afterwards? Actually, I don’t think there was any.

So would I recommend family rowing? You bet I would. I’m already planning next year’s line-up.

Mums and Sons (girlontheriver at bow; sonontheriver at 7)


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It happened when I was having an extended moan about my latest erg score. About two minutes in, my long-suffering husband – clearly keen to talk about something (anything) else – dealt his trump card.

“Well”, he said, “You’re looking very good on it.”

This should have been a dead cert, guaranteed to stop me in my tracks. I’m ridiculously susceptible to flattery (take note, please; I will accept any compliment, however outlandish or untruthful) so he knew he was on to something.

“Yes,” he went on, driving home the point. “You’re looking very slim”.

Job done.

But listen carefully to what happened next. I shrugged. I actually shrugged.

You realise what this means, of course? Somewhere along the line, rowing – that maddening, frustrating, exciting and completely absorbing sport – has become the be all and end all.

There was a time when I saw exercise as a passport to health and a licence to eat – a rather tiresome but  necessary way to keep the blubber at bay. Now, it has become the means to an end. Every bit of fitness I do – walking the dog, boot camp, painful sessions on the erg – I do in order to progress in a sport that can make me elated, angry, frustrated and serene, all the space of one outing.

So if you want to flatter me – if you really want to rock my world – don’t tell me I’m looking great. Tell me how great my rowing is.

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There’s been a fair bit of bow-side / stroke-side banter the last week over on Twitter. Not sure who or what started it (actually I do, but it would be immature to point the finger at anyone. Like @paddlefirm, for instance).

Over the last year I’ve become a confirmed bow-sider (starboard, for my American readers), and have become convinced that coxes have a stroke-side bias. “You’re down on stroke-side”, they’ll call, when clearly the Other Side has masses of room and it’s the poor, long-suffering bow-siders who are struggling for space. “More pressure on bow-side”, they’ll go on, adding insult to injury. “Stroke-side are pulling you round”. All right, all right, I get the point.

So I’d happily laughed along with the jokes, until the inevitable happened and Dr. Karma came to call. A few last minute changes to the weekend squadlist left us overendowed with bow-siders. Before I realised what I was doing, I’d volunteered to swap sides. What was I thinking?

At first it felt a bit like writing with my left hand. I couldn’t work out which way to turn or which hand was doing what. But I did it. OK, so I fluffed the occasional stroke, but by the end of the outing it even felt… well… all right. Even at race pace.

It seems that I am, after all, bisweptual. There, I’ve said it. And it feels good.

And hey, as my new friend @a_crewrow says, “Who doesn’t love a good stroke?”

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There’s no excuse for it, really. Up and down the country, grown men and women are flaunting themselves in outfits that quite frankly ought to have a warning attached to them. Skintight, unforgiving, impossible to put on and take off without double joints and a lot of undignified wriggling, and most of all thoroughly unflattering, they’re the first major hurdle that anyone getting serious about rowing has to overcome.

I am, of course, talking about the dreaded all-in-one (for the non-rowers out there, it’s a hideous, lycra affair that shouldn’t really be worn by anyone over the age of, let’s face it, about six months).

The more reckless and cavalier (typically, men under 21 whose mothers ought to know better) are even prone to wearing them without underwear, which is a sight that no one (and especially the unfortunate cox) should ever be exposed to.

Now of course there are sensible reasons for pouring yourself into what was described on Twitter by @paddlefirm as a “lycra condom” (shudder). Your hands can’t catch on them at the finish; they’re streamlined, and … er, actually, that’s it. And whilst that’s all very well for international competitors,  I’m not at all convinced that’s a good enough argument for the rest of us. How much wind resistance is your average club rower really creating?

When I had an abortive and phenomenally unsuccessful attempt at rowing as a student back in the 19**s (cough), lycra was unknown to us until an advertisement from “Godfrey Textiles” heralded the arrival of “all in one Rowing Suits” – designed specially for Rowers “in the latest fabric – stretch Lycra” (see below).

How we laughed. How ridiculous did those men look? And what, we reasoned, was wrong with shorts and a T-shirt?

Ah well, we thought. It’ll never catch on.

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“You are soooo competitive”, gasped my friend on the next mat, as she watched me furiously attacking another set of press-ups as though my life depended on it (not, incidentally, those half-hearted, knees-down, girlie excuses for press-ups known in boot camp as “wuss-ups”; we’re talking proper, boys’ press-ups here).

Now there’s no denying that I am ridiculously competitive (and more about this in a later post). Even when my muscles are screaming, I won’t stop if I know that someone else is still going. But I realised last night that there was more to it than that.

Ever since I came out as a rower (and the Godfrey shorts and Monmouth RC hoodie are a bit of a give-away, no doubt about it), I have felt that in some small way I am representing the rowing massive. So I may be small and slight, and sometimes I have to stop when I’m about to faint (low blood pressure and burpees are a lethal combination), but if I give up, what does that say about me as a rower? I have to keep going, because that is what rowers do.

So I may be aching all over today in places I didn’t even know I had muscles, but I can console myself that I did it for all you rowers out there. I hope y’all appreciate it.


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